Life is about giving credit where credit is due: Jewish right-wingers and centrists were wrong — and left-wingers right — about some things.
The Jewish left was right that Israel couldn't afford to ignore the demographic disaster that holding on to lands where millions of Palestinians lived represented. But there was never a clear answer on this question from the right until Ariel Sharon reversed course and called for a withdrawal from Gaza.
He said Israel should maintain as much of the land and as many settlements as possible, and withdraw behind a security barrier and wait there for a new generation of Palestinians who preferred peace to bloodshed.
The Sharon policy — now inherited by his successor, Ehud Olmert — of unilateral withdrawal represented an acknowledgement that the left was fundamentally correct about a demographic reality that could be argued with (as some still do), but not ignored.
This has given members of the so-called "peace camp," both here and in Israel, a reason to feel a degree of satisfaction — and they are entitled to it.
But, unfortunately, this wisdom does not extend to other aspects of the left's prescription for Israel.
After all, the left also spent the 1990s touting Yasser Arafat and his Fatah-led Palestinian Authority as a true partner for peace. This wasn't just limited to those heady days in September 1993, when the euphoria of the signing of the Oslo accords on the White House lawn spread false hope near and wide. Leftists continued in this fashion throughout the decade, even as proof of Arafat's unwillingness to keep his word about peace became apparent to all except those whose ideological blinders failed to let them see the light.
The left may have been right about demography. But it was dead wrong on its insistence that the Palestinians wanted peace, and could be trusted to hold fast to their agreements. Empowering terrorists did not make them peace partners; it led only to a greater number of dead Jews.
The collapse of Oslo resurrected Sharon's political career, but, ironically, his subsequent decision to seek a centrist path has given new life to the left and emboldened it on another issue.
Only one year after Arafat's designated successor, Mahmoud Abbas, took power, his Fatah Party was trounced in balloting that brought Hamas, an Islamist terrorist movement, to power.
It's probably unfair to Hamas to see it as a huge change from Abbas and Fatah. After all, Fatah was just as involved in terrorism against Israel as Hamas. But the victory of Hamas is a change in one respect. Unlike Arafat and Abbas, Hamas isn't willing to lie about its goals, or even its tactics.
Hamas and its leaders will not recognize Israel or renounce terror. It's true that Arafat and Abbas did so, while clearly intending to continue their war anyway (a point they made in Arabic to Arab audiences when they thought the West wasn't listening). But Hamas' hate for Israel and the Jews is so deeply ingrained in its religious beliefs that it will not stoop to such subterfuges.
Surely, this means that the chorus of apologies and excuses for Arafat that characterized the Jewish left's attitude toward the P.A. during Oslo would not be repeated for Hamas. No serious American Jewish group could stand up for a continuance of American funding of the P.A. now that it's in the hands of self-avowed terrorists.
But instead of the left repenting of its foolish refusal to see the truth about the Palestinians, it's repeating its mistakes with Hamas.
Palestinian elections weren't even over before many on the left began speaking of looking for "moderates" among the Hamas cadres. And joining with such inveterate Israel-bashers as former President Jimmy Carter, they began calling on President Bush and the Europeans to back off on their threats of an aid cutoff.
Spokespeople for groups like the highly influential Israel Policy Forum, as well as the persistent Americans for Peace Now, want foreign cash to keep flowing to the P.A. to give Hamas a chance. While acknowledging the nasty nature of the terror group, leftists are playing the same game with these folks that they did when they were wooing Fatah terrorists. Hamas will "do business" with Israel, they claim, if we let it. IPF spokesman M.J. Rosenberg writes that Hamas can be "trusted" to keep a truce with Israel, even as he ignores the fact that Palestinians expect it to keep fighting.
Leftists tell us that cutting off Hamas will lead to more Palestinian extremism, as if anything could be more extreme than Hamas' eliminationist covenant of hatred for Jews and Israel.
Even worse, they play upon our sympathy for the Palestinians when they assert that an aid cut-off will only increase hardship for them. Is it fair, they ask, to punish everyday Palestinians for making a democratic choice?
The answer is: Of course, it's fair! If it's their will to be represented by those who pledge an unending war — with Israel's destruction and the mass slaughter of Jews as its end goal — then they should be held accountable for that choice.
Moreover, to continue the flow of aid to the P.A. will confer upon the leaders of Hamas a mantle of legitimacy that they'll use to solidify their hold on power.
Working with Hamas or giving its leadership "a chance" to strengthen the foundations of a terrorist infrastructure unhindered is not pragmatic. It's insanity! And it's lunacy to do so using the same arguments that were employed to wrongly whitewash Arafat.
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That so many otherwise intelligent Jews take this stand is perhaps another manifestation of what Harvard psychiatrist Ken Levin calls the "Oslo syndrome" in his 2005 book of the same name. In the work, Levin theorizes that the effects of the long siege of Israel and the Jews have resulted in a willingness on the part of some to embrace any hope of peace — even a delusion like Oslo.
But the problem is that by using their considerable influence in this country on those who share their views — on editorial pages of papers like The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer — the Jewish left isn't just spinning harmless fantasies. If they are able to undermine the consensus against aiding Hamas, they will drive a dangerous wedge between Jerusalem and Washington.
And still, the war on Israel continues. Resolutions calling for divestment — a form of economic warfare — continue to gain ground within Protestant churches and among academics.
Israeli intelligence sources believe that it's only a matter of time before a new wave of Palestinian terror begins. And it's a given that some on the left will blame the new round of war on Israel, just as they blamed it for the duplicity of Arafat and Abbas.
Much of the Jewish right has owned up to its mistakes in the past, and has now adopted realistic policies aimed at preserving a Jewish majority in a secure Israel. It's high time for the Jewish left to do the same before a repetition of its past mistakes causes even more harm.